ERIKA FAY NICOLE

The new oases of Hospitality

Discover the latest horizons of the luxury hospitality world Saudi Arabia. Live the AIUla dream. Experience the magic.

The desert

The desert has not always been desert.

Once, the sand, hot by day and cold by night, was fertile land. It was lush vegetation; it was water; it was river.

But that did not stop the “cradle of humanity” from continuing to inhabit those parts of the planet that had become hostile. On the contrary, in time, civilizations found their own dimension, even to the point of calling those places “home” again.

Today, as then, between one sand dune and another, there are often splendid oases, rich in every natural element, and around which small fortified cities of brick and mud are organized.

Such is the case with AIUla, a fortified city in Saudi Arabia, a unique place on Earth where beauty surrounds everything.

AIUla is located on what was once the ancient incense trail and boasts historic monuments, which are now UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Because of this and because of its boundless authenticity, made of earth and wind, this place is the new exclusive destination of the Hospitality sector, which has started to build new tailor-made oases, even for the most adventurous travelers.

Until 2019, in fact, the only existing tourism in the country was religious tourism, that is, of the faithful to Mecca or Medina; since September 2019, the Saudi government has begun to show interest in the tourism sector, resuming the issuance of tourist visas.

The best way to experience AIUla is to “camp” in the desert, but there are some gems you can’t miss if you are planning to take a “destination paradise” flight.

Experience AlUla

Wow. HABITAS AIUla @habitasalula is one of 15 luxury destinations around the world created by HABITAS (@our_habitas), a pioneer in sustainable hospitality, which envisioned small villas nestled in ancient oases in the desert canyons of the Ashar Valley. Each villa is a little gem on the dunes or the infinity pool set in the rocks.

The culinary offerings are special and well thought out with Middle Eastern menus of a thousand colors and spicy flavors, from chickpea hummus to fresh squeezed pomegranate juice, all to be savored at the Tama restaurant, which means “here and now” in Aramaic. In this place one gathers to hear stories and experience recipes on a unique and timeless journey.

The BANYAN TREE AIUla @banyantree.alula invites a multisensory experience on the ground thanks to perfectly appointed designer bungalows resembling white tents that reflect sunlight and look like sails silhouetted against the ochre horizon of rocks and sand. It turns honey-colored at sunrise and then changes to pink at sunset.

Only a twenty-minute drive away is the site of Hegra, home to the spectacular Nabatean tombs, and the old town of AlUla, with its brick houses and network of small restaurants, cafes and craft stores. At the Banyan Tree the evening bathing ritual, made with local and aromatic herbs, is almost sacred, so relaxing that you almost fall asleep soaking in the water!

Bungalows

The CLOUD7 RESIDENCE @cloud7alula is an elegant contemporary home in a comfortable bungalow with panoramic views, a more affordable tent, yet strategically located to easily explore the wonders of AlUla and privately visit its farms of sweet dates and fresh local produce.

In the bungalows, in fact, you can even cook to your heart’s content and grill in the common areas or by the pool!

ASHAR TENTED RESORT offers a luxury desert camping experience in the Ashar Valley inspired by the ancient Bedouin tents, a design meant to honor tradition and following the latest mantra in the design world: go back to basics! The same can be said of the 26th NORTH @26north_alula fabulous glamping experience surrounded by rocks and orchards. The tents are a dream in their simplicity. This is the solution for the truly reckless, rather than the luxury bungalow. Nearby excursions and must-visit monuments include La Elephant Rock, a 52-meter-high elephant-shaped rock composed of sandstone.

An even more adrenaline-pumping experience and extreme solution is touring the desert in an RV thanks to CANYON RV PARK: a collection of furnished RVs to seek out the best starry sky angles to observe on your stomach and warmed by the warmth of a blazing fire.

Last but not least breathtaking, SHADEN RESORT @shadenresortalula offers luxury villas with private patios and access to a cool pool, several on-site restaurants, lounging areas, and more. In fact, the best way to understand the lay of the land is a hot air balloon ride to admire the region’s beauty and winding canyons from above.

Close your eyes-you are immersed in nature. The sand under your feet, the sky above your head, the dunes and the sun on the horizon.

Don’t go with the flow. Be the current.

Welcome to AlUla.

(All images are online on Pinterest & Instagram, copyrights of cited profiles)

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